Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Can Writers Do It All?

I admired the author who spoke about her eight hour writing routine which is only interrupted when her husband brings lunch, afternoon tea, and the housekeeper comes in to say good-bye. That may not be fiction, but it certainly is fantasy as far as my life is concerned.

I suspect it’s fantasy for most of us who track the market, polish the proposal, peruse how-to books, write for cash, maintain daily word counts, update blogs, strive to meet contest or requested manuscript deadlines as dear hubby pokes his head in and says, “I have no clean clothes and, seriously, are we eating cold cuts again?” or #1 wife says, “Junior can’t find his way back from the sandbox. When are you cutting the lawn?”

How does anyone do all the things that a writer is supposed to do?

Well, don’t ask me, I was hoping you’d have some solutions. No, just kidding. It's an on-going dilemma and one I wrestled with for years. The answer depends on your own unique circumstances and placement on God’s path. In the meantime, here are three tips.

Everything does not have to be done now. We try to microwave our success when it should be more like preparing a luau: Build a deep pit, lay a good fire, prepare the food, lower the clay pot of goodies, cover it over and bake for hours and hours, then feast. Did you notice how many steps there were leading up to the feasting? They each build on the other otherwise you’d be eating raw, sandy food. There is a time for everything.

If you are spinning out of control, stop. Truly. Simply stop. The world will not fall apart, even if the kids are screaming bloody murder. You take time for absolutely everything else so make it a priority to stop and ask God what he wants to do with your life. Then plan small orderly steps to accomplish that.

Exercise those trust muscles. God is in control. If you believe that, than you can relax and simply ask God, “What am I to do this day?” In James 1:5 God invites you to ask him and is pleased to give you wisdom. If you are burning out, it’s sure that you are moving in your own strength for God will empower you to do what needs to be done, including caring for spouse, children, and the sick dog.

I’m interested. How do you manage all the things a writer must do? What tips do you have to add to these basic ideas?


  1. Dear Mary: I love this post; you are one wise lady!

    One item that's helped me as a two-career woman (I work full time and write at night) is exercising. I hate it; I must force myself to get on the treadmill or walk outdoors, but it keeps my mind and emotions from wacking out.

    We also keep our meals simple. This saves time and energy.

    And I pray a lot. Like this: "Help me!"

  2. What a wonderful post and very timely for me. I'm extra strapped for time with my husband traveling this week and I need to learn to take more breaks. I love your microwave/luau analogy.

  3. Mary:
    Great post, and a topic, with which we all have to come to grips.

    I've accepted that things that matter in life will always be a struggle. I fight daily to get in my writing time. I use a timer, I keep a calendar to log my success and failures, and I get up at 4 am in order to put my writing first (after prayer time. Not many interruptions at 4 am.

    I've done this since 2006 and this works for me, even though I'm not a morning person. I heard a preacher best say it in a sermon. "Put the big rocks in the bucket first, and the small rocks will work their way in somehow."

    I do most of the cooking at home, and I cook a giant pot of soup every weekend and freeze it. It's a great time saver. Often we have a good variety of soup in the freezer to choose from.

    Also, I am never without index cards in my pocket. Some of my best thoughts come when I'm busy with other things. Speilberg said he receied his best ideas while he was driving.

    Lastly, I also invested in a quality speech to text software which I use daily--a great time saver. You can use it while you're walking, driving...anywhere you can take my laptop. It works great for taking note, brainstorming, and even the ugly first draft.

    Enough said! :)

  4. I like the advice to stop spinning. Sometimes it really feels like the Earth is moving too fast, taking me along with it. Excellent post.

    As for me, I try to utilize every minute of my day to the best of my ability. And once I'm home, I'm home. So I have firm boundaries. That helps me.

  5. Mary, I loved your post. You would make an excellent devotional writer. This post hit home with me. :)

  6. I agree--you could write an awesome devotional!

    I regard this ongoing struggle as part of the cross Jesus teaches writers to bear. No one, but no one, is exempt from life.

  7. This is wonderful advice. Glad I stopped by!

  8. I think I just might be able to accomplish everything in life that I want to if only I could give up that bad habit of going to sleep every night. I'm joking, but only halfway. Sometimes when it feels like the steamroller is about to run me over, I need to simply step aside, let the steamroller pass, catch my breath, and jump into the routine when I'm ready--no matter how many masterpieces my author colleagues are churning out!

  9. What wonderful tips you all are leaving. I hope everyone has some take away value from your comments. Thanks for posting.